CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Signing past-prime Hasselbeck no coup for Titans

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Hasselbeck sported a passer rating lower than Chad Henne and Jason Campbell in 2010. (Getty Images)  
Hasselbeck sported a passer rating lower than Chad Henne and Jason Campbell in 2010. (Getty Images)  

Imagine being a general manager and one of your pro-personnel scouts comes to you with a great idea to help fill your quarterback hole.

"Why don't we sign this 35-year-old quarterback who threw four touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in his final five regular-season games, didn't complete 60 percent of his passes for the season, finished with a passer rating lower than Chad Henne and Jason Campbell and has played 16 games once since 2005 because of injuries?"

You might fire him on the spot.

The Tennessee Titans are signing that quarterback.

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His name is Matt Hasselbeck, a passer with far more reputation than substance anymore. The Titans agreed to a deal with Hasselbeck on Wednesday and he is almost guaranteed to be their starting quarterback.

You would think his joining the Titans would make them a playoff team the way many in the media have reacted to the news, including some colleagues here at CBS Sports.com.

Did anybody watch him play in 2010, aside from his nice playoff performance? Do two good games in the playoffs -- really one -- erase a touchdown-interception ratio of 34-44 the past three seasons?

The Titans need a veteran passer. At least they think that. So I understand going out to land one. They drafted Jake Locker in the first round of the April draft and the only other quarterback on the roster is Rusty Smith, a second-year player with one bad start on his resume. It might be too much to play them early.

Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt was with the Seahawks from 1999-20006 and vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster was in Seattle as well, so they know Hasselbeck. Reinfeldt was there to see the good Hasselbeck, the one who led them to a Super Bowl in 2005. He hasn't been around for Mediocre Matt.

From 2003-2005, Hasselbeck threw 72 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions and completed 61.8 percent of his passes during those three seasons. He has thrown more than 20 touchdown passes once in the five seasons since.

To be fair to Hasselbeck, he's never had great receivers. He's also had to deal with a laundry list of injuries that have him labeled as fragile and limited what he could do.

Hasselbeck is a tough guy, a self-made player. He's also one of the nicest players in the NFL.

In part, I think that's why the evaluation process on him is so skewed. His brother also works with the four-letter hype network, which does its part to promote certain players, including this one.

The pre-free agency hype for Hasselbeck was out of whack. This is a quarterback who finished behind players like Alex Smith and Henne in many passing categories last season.

I think the playoff magic, which included an upset victory over the New Orleans Saints, helped skew the perception. Hasselbeck was good that day, throwing for 272 yards and four touchdowns. He threw three touchdown passes against Chicago the next week in a loss, but that game wasn't nearly as impressive as the week before. He completed 56.6 percent of his passes and averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. He got most of his yards, and all of his touchdowns, in the second half after Chicago led 28-0 midway through the third quarter.

I went back and watched that game again this week, and Hasseleck, quite frankly, wasn't very good. He hit some short passes, but did very little down the field. I also watched his awful four-interception game against San Francisco late in the season. He was without his two top receivers that day, but some of the throws he made were those of a first-year player. He floated passes. He was picked off in the end zone on a horrible pass.

The following week against Atlanta, Hasselbeck was benched after throwing two interceptions and never doing much of anything. He looked unsteady. He was playing with a broken left wrist, but that shouldn't have mattered that much in terms of throwing it. He floated passes against the Falcons and held onto a ball too long in the end zone that was knocked free and recovered by Atlanta for a touchdown. He clearly should have thrown the ball away.

I guess none of that matters to the Titans -- or any of those raving about this guy as a great veteran signing.

One last thing for Titans fans: Kerry Collins had a better season in 2010 than Hasselbeck. Still excited?


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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